GOOD DAY MEDIAPHILES … Did you miss me? I missed you … I gave up not going to the Big Day Out years ago. By which I mean, I'd always tell myself that this might be the year I'd give it a miss. But, as surely as … Friday afternoon would find me in Penrose. Now, I just assume I'm going.
And why not? It's the annual meeting of the tribes: long, colourful, busy and noisy as fuck And it's actually better than it used to be. In the first couple of years, the staging arrangements weren't as good, and there was a background danger of encountering drunken idiots. People generally weren't as nice.
But somewhere along the line - I think from about the time that girls stopped schlepping around after their boyfriends and started getting themselves about in girl gangs - it evolved into something better. Last year was a kind of peak of tolerance and good attitude. As a Public Address reader noted, "I've never, ever, been asked at the Big Day Out if I could see the band properly, and had people shift to get me a better view."
I guess it's extra welcome this year as a conscious break from the wowsers and moralists. For a few hours on a sunny day, you can be with tens of thousands of people who probably, to some extent, see the world a bit like you do.
It's brief enough. 2005 is an election year, so brace yourselves for a tide of tosh from about Waitangi Day till November. And we'll now have three 7pm TV current affairs shows to deliver it.
We'll doubtless hear a lot more about the moral backlash; which, like a particularly annoying little dog, is a lot louder than it is large. The Sunday Star Times rather queerly tried to tell us last weekend that "moral and ethical decline" "topped" New Zealanders' concerns in 2004. Actually, it didn't. That was the race debate.
The moral morass didn't even come second, it came sixth: and that only because it spiked to the point where a whole 11% of people told UMR it was our biggest issue, in November, at the height of the whole civil unions hoo-ha. By December, when the bill actually passed, it had fallen to 9% and will, I bet, fall again this month. Race and Treaty issues, on the other hand, peaked at 40% last February. There is simply no comparison between the two.
I actually got hold of the UMR Mood of the Nation review that the Star Times got, and it's quite interesting. Call me what you like, I still think the future of our economy is the biggest issue, even if the punters don't. We've had good economic growth since 2000 - and, more, particularly, a consistent, robust sense of optimism - but the future is hardly guaranteed.
One of the surveys found the highest support ever - 35%, with 19% don't know or don't care - for New Zealand becoming a republic, and a strong demographic skew in the responses, with those over 60 being most likely to oppose that change. This is a reform that will look after itself over time. I suspect we'll have a serious debate about it in about 10 years' time.
Anyway, you will doubtless be electrified to know that Act MP Muriel Newman has established her own website aiming to "declare war on political correctness", which I suppose makes more sense than, say declaring war on Australia. Most of the alleged outrages listed on the site are unexceptional: Newman gets herself in a lather about a $30,000 grant in 2003 to establish a Maori creative industries cluster.
Listen, I met Garry Nicholas, the founder of Maori Arts New Zealand, last year. He took a group of young Maori artists on a trial exhibition trip to North America. They did a million dollars worth of business out of art collectors who prized above all the indigenous identity that Muriel Newman seems to find so offensive.
In the end, "political correctness" is a phrase used by people when they've run out of arguments. I'll always treasure interviewing Murray McCully and listening to him hold forth about the overwhelming wave of political correctness sweeping the country. When he stopped I asked him if he could define "political correctness" for me and the listeners. "No, not really," he declared thunderously, before concluding with a flourish, "not easily."
Dazzling. Well, let me help. While it can lend itself to the excessive or naive, it more often adds up to respect, and not using language to demean people. My two kids are both mildly autistic: am I happy that they are today described as having a disability rather than being "retarded"? Especially when they're both actually perfectly intelligent? Of course I fucking well am -and I actually welcome any argument as to why I shouldn't be.
And respect is what I trust will be practised here today. Take your turn, be cool and generally comport yourself as if the world is your friend. Wise Old Uncle Russ, who went to Glastonbury three times, also advises taking some measure of protection from the sun, and pacing yourself on whatever your poison is.
The report in yesterday's Herald on party-pill overdoses was timely. There are a number of drugs - wine, for example - of which it is cool to occasionally have a little too much. Benzylpiperazine isn't one of them.
I tend to think that the guy who takes a multiple overdose of Charge pills and misses his favourite band because he's having convulsions in the back of an ambulance is the 21st century equivalent of the guy who misses his favourite band because he's vomiting through his nose after necking half a bottle of bourbon before the gates open. Although there are probably still some of those. Anyway, don't be the sad guy. Or girl.
Me, I'm planning to get back along by about 2pm, in time for the Phoenix Foundation. Much as I would enjoy seeing SJD, the Fanatics, the Checks, the Donnas, Pluto, tha Feelstyle and Deja Voodoo, I think nine hours on the go is probably enough for me. Although I have, it must be said, been able to arrange myself some comforts. Somehow, I find myself with a corporate car park this year. Truly, I am owning the place.
Possible highlights, then? Well, Flaming Lips blindsided me with one of the best gigs I've ever seen last year, so who knows? But seeing as you're asking, RJD2, Kid 606, the D4, Mint Chicks, Dimmer, Shihad, Le Tigre and Trinity Roots' second-last gig ever. With the Streets as a possible long-odds surprise crackers, and jury out on the Chemicals and the Beasties.
It's plenty to be going on with. And I must be going myself. So keep it locked on the b on your way in and out, and I'll see you in the mosh pit. Not. G'bye!
The above is the script of a radio commentary delivered today on 95bFM, live from Ericsson Stadium, venue for the Big Day Out, just for old times' sake.
PS: Whilst there's no denying George W. Bush's ability to win the only polls that really matter, just about every other poll stinks for him in Inuguration week. According to the latest Pew survey, he kicks off with the worst approval ratings of any second-term president in 50 years. Meanwhile, in a poll commissioned by the BBC World Service, a majority of 22,000 people surveyed across 21 countries believe that Bush will have "a negative impact on peace and security" compared with only 26% who think he is a positive force for good. Two out of three Britons had a negative view of America's influence on the world, and the same proportion opposed sending any more British troops to Iraq. Trade considerations appear to behind a relatively positive view of Bush in India, one of only three countries where a majority believed that the world was better off with Bush in charge. The Washington Post's polling finds a majority disapproving of his Social Security reforms. He seems to have a lock on the terrorism issue, however. Lots more WP polls here.